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Moving day is almost here!

June 22, 2010

Subscribers, get ready! In two days, LetResearchWork4You.net will be redirected to LetResearchWork4you.com. This means you’ll still be able to type the original .net address into your browser, but the source of the feed, which allows you to have Recent Findings delivered to your inbox or to read them in a feed reader, will change.

While this is unlikely to affect your subscribtion, there’s a chance that it will, so, to be on the safe side, please subscribe to Research Works’ RSS Feed or email delivery service again when the move is complete.  Look for the feed icon under the “Connect to Research Works” menu on the new site.

Thanks for your loyalty, and we’re looking forward to interacting with you on LetResearchWork4you.com!

A new Research Works is coming soon

June 18, 2010

The countdown to the new LetResearchWork4You.net has begun!

On Thursday, June 24, Research Works will launch a new Web site with added content, features and capabilities, including:
An updated look
Audio work samples
Simpler page navigation
Social media buttons for easier sharing and following
Featured pages, posts and other interesting information that nerds enjoy

We’ve been working hard, and we’re excited about the changes. Come back and let us know what you think about them!

Take heart, humanities grads. There’s hope.

June 2, 2010

A flood of new graduates possessing degrees in the humanities are asking themselves what they can do with the piece of paper they worked so hard for.

I don’t think I asked myself that question as an undergrad.  When I declared my major as a freshman—I didn’t have to declare until junior year, but I was so sure at 18—I knew I wanted to continue my study of psychology in graduate school, ultimately obtaining either a PhD in counseling or a PsyD.

I’ve since determined that it’s ludicrous for college administrators, parents and future employers to demand that anyone between the ages of 18 and 24 know what she wants to do with the rest of her life.

After internships in counseling establishments for children and for adult men, a research practicum on gambling addicts, an independent study spent developing characters for clinical psych students to diagnose, and the opportunity to, through my writing, debate, inform and entertain my favorite professors in my favorite Latin American and African American studies classes, I no longer wanted to pursue psychology.

I was 21 and walking away from a top school with degree in hand and debt waiting when it occurred to me to write for a living.  Eight years later, I’m finally doing it, and I’ve broken all sorts of rules to get here.

Rule #1: Have a clips package full of articles you wrote or edited for your university’s newspaper. I have loved the written word since childhood, but in college, I applied my talent to my major, my minor and the other classes that required written work.  My only formal education in creative writing came after I graduated: I attended UCLA’s Professional Screenwriting Program.  I volunteered for an organization that needed writers for its newsletter.  I continued writing in my journal.  And when I was laid off, seeking a new career and figuring I had nothing to lose, I took my newsletter clipping and asked the editors at a publication to give me a chance.  About 18 months and 30 published stories later, they’re still giving me assignments, and my regular column in another publication adds another 14 clips to the growing collection.

Rule #2: Applicant must have a bachelor’s degree in English, journalism, marketing, creative writing, or communications to do this job. I didn’t exactly apply to be an entrepreneur, but hey, no one was hiring me to do the jobs I wanted to do with the degree that I have, even though my experience had converged around writing and communications longer than it had around psychology.  (I find it odd when I see that list of degrees in the job requirements for a marketing and communications position.  The more writing I do, the more I understand how different all of it is, and the more easily I can see how an objective journalist would have difficulty spinning a product or service for marketing purposes.)

Rule #3: Have at least two years of income saved up before you start your own business. I was laid off after a year-and-a-half, so it was impossible to follow this rule.  Unsteady income is a wild, sometimes nauseating ride, but I thank God for the doors he’s opened for me on this journey.  I enjoy my work.  I use my talent that became a hobby that became a skill that became my sole source of income.  I use my screenwriting certificate.  I use my degree.  Every day.

In this recent NPR story, I heard a young woman with an English degree ask the, “What can I do with this?” question.  Her mother advised her to write as a backup to her plan of becoming an actress.  In hindsight, I’m sure they see that was not the most logical path to take.

I can tell them what will happen if the girl in the story doesn’t return to her previous job as a cashier, which is among the jobs she’s pursuing now: She will likely end up working for various people who aren’t as smart as she is but who need her writing and critical thinking skills to make them look better in front of other business people.  She’ll write for pleasure on her own time, or even sneak writing breaks into her day.  Either she will cave in and go to graduate school, or she will compile her pleasure-writing into a manuscript and maybe get a lucky break.  Or she will find something, through desperation or through lateral moves within an organization or company, that has nothing to do with her degree.  And she’ll feel bad for liking it.

Or she might think out of the box and break some rules.  If she follows my path, she has only one to break.

Lump sum or by the hour?

April 18, 2010

At a recent workshop for small business owners and entrepreneurs interested in obtaining minority, women or disadvantaged business certification, I heard the following advice from a Small Business Association counselor: To secure your first and future contracts, show up on time, offer a high quality service or product and do it at a fair price.

The fair price advice has stayed in my memory because “fair” is relative.  In procurement projects, the organization sponsoring the project has a budget for the products or services.  Vendors offer bids, and the price is “fair” if the quality of the product or service is high and the price of it is within the pre-determined budget.  The vendor can build on top of someone else’s idea of what’s fair.

Someone else’s idea of what’s fair isn’t always so easy to gauge when a business owner isn’t bidding on a project, or when the scope of the project is relatively small or is not ongoing.  A business owner might have a set hourly rate for all services and offer an estimate to help prepare her client for the final invoice, or to help a potential client budget for the services in a proposal.  Another option is for the business owner and client to agree on a lump sum.

When I do a project for which I have a set hourly rate, I offer an estimate and send the client a notice when the time I’ve spent on the project is approaching the maximum on the estimate.  But I also offer a set fee for certain services.  Both methods have their respective risks.  I could scare a potential client away with by overestimating or anger a potential client by underestimating a job’s time.  If a client pays me a lump sum for a project and then it takes more time than anyone ever could have foreseen, my profit margin dwindles.

There are risks for the client, too.  Just as an employer cannot monitor an employee all the time, a budget-conscious client may fret over whether or not his vendor is really spending as much time on his project as he says he is, or why it’s taking so long.  But he could be getting something with the hourly rate that he’s not in the lump sum: service of the highest quality.

A client may think she has lucked out with the lump sum method.  She knows exactly how much money she’s spent on the project, but so does the vendor, and to maximize his profit, the vendor will finish the job as quickly and with as little effort as possible.

One of my business mentors says he consistently gets lower-quality work when he pays a vendor a lump sum for a service instead of paying by the hour.  The business owner who is the vendor should always do a first-rate job, no matter the payment method; that’s how you build your reputation as a technician, right?  But let’s consider the situation, do the math and be honest: If some unexpected things have come up – anything from a technical glitch to a client changing his mind about what he wants or expects – and it has taken you 25 hours to complete a $1000 project that you thought would take 15 hours to complete, and your normal rate is $50 per hour, you are losing money.  You will want to either convince your client that you deserve more money, or to do the remaining work as quickly as possible to salvage the loss, your dissatisfaction with the entire affair increasing all the while.  On the other hand, if you have managed to cut corners and complete a thousand-dollar project in five hours, you’ve made out like a bandit.  Your client may even be satisfied in the latter scenario, but if you compare it to other work you’ve done for an hourly rate, you probably wouldn’t add it to your portfolio.

Lump sum or hourly rate?  Which do you prefer and why?

How to find grants and write winning proposals

April 2, 2010

If you missed the April edition of Kentucky Networking Group, you missed my presentation, “Getting Free Money,” and several great networking opportunities.  Fortunately, the Web allows us to view what we missed!

The slide show presentation I gave on April 1 is below the following links.  Kentucky Networking Group is sponsored by Red Carpet Events.

PDF of federal RFP mentioned in slide show

PDF of individual RFP mentioned in slide show

Research Works is expanding!

February 24, 2010

While the mission of Research Works hasn’t changed, its services have been malleable according to consumer need, market conditions and employee capabilities since its inception.  The idea at the beginning was to offer low-cost business-plan writing and statistical market research services to existing small businesses and new entrepreneurs.  As you know from the previous post, Research Works has been successful at writing grant proposals and is considering writing proposals for bids and contracts.  Also, we found a need for writing and editing internal and external corporate/nonprofit communications like e-newsletters, press releases and fundraising campaign letters.  Meanwhile, the capacity to provide copywriting services (including coming up with slogans and writing bios, scripts for commercials, podcasts, and vodcasts, and the type of information you find on a company’s website or blog, or in its brochure) lied within our creative spirit as well.

In an effort to better assist small businesses and entrepreneurs pressed for time and money and to make Research Works the go-to place for a variety of writing and communications needs, we are considering adding website design to our services.  Research Works has been offered the opportunity to partner with Market America Web Centers to produce affordable, custom-designed websites for businesses of all sizes and in all industries.  It is a logical extension of our copywriting services, and it’s more affordable and convenient for business owners who don’t want to go to a graphic designer, copywriter and web developer individually, or to an expensive ad agency or marketing firm for a website.

We had the copywriting experience from the beginning.  Now we have a design team and a large company that produces millions of websites for businesses everywhere to support us and to make the service more affordable for YOU. So why are we “considering” the partnership instead of deciding on it?  We need to know that it’s right for our clients.  We need to know that it’s needed.

To that end, contact us to take advantage of the new service today, or to refer someone who needs it.

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© Mariam Williams, aka researchworks, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams or http://www.letresearchwork4you.net, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from researchworks and Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

$50,000 and counting

January 29, 2010

Research Works is proud to announce that after an intense submission and review process with many delays, the TWO non-profit organizations for which we wrote grant proposals in December 2009 received funding!  The grand total of funds that non-profit organizations for which Research Works has written grants keeps growing.  It currently stands at $48,000.  (Add that to the amount of funding my writing has earned in grants for independent arts projects, and the total comes to $51,200.)

This is the year for the total and for business to grow.  Do you have local, state or federal grants you need help writing or editing? What about RFPs, bids or business plans?  The funding is essential, but often the work is too time consuming for business owners or executive directors to complete on their own.  Even if you have a minimum of 30 extra hours to reach a tight deadline, will you be confident in the quality of the proposal you’ve written?

Many factors affect the selection process for RFPs and results of proposal writing can never be guaranteed. But the funding total is growing. Now is the time for your organization to grow with it.

Contact us to begin letting Research Works work for you!

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© Mariam Williams, aka researchworks, 2009-2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams or http://www.letresearchwork4you.net, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from researchworks and Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.